The Cross Classic was my first UCI race back in 2010. I was a newly minted Cat 2 and took my first opportunity to be at the start of a race with international level competition. I finished in the mid 30’s and was pulled with two laps to go. It was a decent result that left me wanting more. Last year I was able to finish my first UCI race on the lead lap, and also had my best finish placing: 31st. After sitting out the 2011 edition due to my broken collarbone and a poor showing at the USGP, I was hoping for a good result.
I say hoping because I’d given up on training for the last two weeks following the USGP. Seriously. I only rode four out of the 12 days leading up to this race. Two days were just riding at the Valmont Bike Park (venue for tomorrow’s Boulder Cup) for fun. I had a feeling that I just didn’t want to ride anymore so I decided to listen to the feeling and clearly it was the right thing to do.
Firstly, a quick note about this venue: There are goat head thorns all over the place! Do not ride your bike anywhere except pavement, and the course. A previous time I was out at the Boulder Reservoir I was stuck in the thumb by a thorn in my pocket! The course is designed to avoid the gravelly areas where the dry, vine-like plants are most frequently found. I was vigilant enough to come away unscathed for another year.
I arrived to find the course mostly tacky and perfect for my brand new Specialized Terra Tubulars. The Terra is an aggressive tire that is reported to be more versatile than some of the mud specific tires out there (like a Dugast Rhino). I couldn’t agree more, since the tires were perfectly suited to the course which had a few greasy spots but was soft and tacky with the addition of sandy areas on the course. I rode a higher pressure than I might normally since the previously wet course had been smoothed out (few bumps) and there weren’t many slick spots.
I drew a good number for the race and lined up 35th. I made sure to choose the left side since the first two turns went to the right and the field always stacks up on the inside of the corners. The first corner was especially wide and I scouted a line in advance that worked well. The field was a much more manageable size (about 50) compared to the USGPs fields of 90+. I was riding mid-field halfway through the first lap.
I knew I was on a good day when it seemed easy to keep moving up the field. Part of the was the course design: The long straightaways allowed me to use my high neuromuscular fatigue resistance to pedal harder than the other guys on the couple sections of course. There were 3-4 sections of course that required pedaling for 20-30 seconds, compared to the USGPs more compact venue that only had one long section along the home straight.
On my off days at the USGP I was riding with riders that I usually don’t see too much of at the big races, since they’re pretty far behind me. Today I was riding with riders that I also don’t see much of, but they’re usually in front. I was passing guys like Jake Wells and Ken Benesh without feeling like I was riding my eyeballs out.
I took a conservative approach to the course as far as obstacles were concerned. I ran the exit from the beach (which to me is a no-brainer because the exit is very slow and it was a short run), and ended up running the sand pit a time or two. The sand pit was touch because it was a slow speed entry on a physically demanding part of the course. I also ran the logs, since I’m not much of a bunny hopper. I was even heckled for being ‘the first guy’ (frontmost) to run them. I didn’t even try during warmup and now I wish I’d at least taken a closer look. Bunnyhopping has been on my summer skills to-do list for a while but I still haven’t gotten around to it.
At one point I was as far up the race as about 17th position, but I was overtaken by a strong group of five guys that I couldn’t hang with and settled in just outside 20th place. I was feeling strong at the end and made a few passes to finish about 20th. I rode a smart, clean race (not a single bobble with the exception of the sandpit) and was thrilled with my result.
I’m not certain, but it looks like if I finished 21st place, I’ll get $20, which will be my first prize money in a UCI race! Tomorrow’s race is a C1 (versus C2 for this race), and 20th place would net me a decent $94.
I don’t get too many readers on weekends, but I’ll go ahead and mention that tomorrow’s Boulder Cup is a big race and an even bigger party! If you’ve never been to watch a bike race, this is the one to go to. I’ll be racing at 3:50 and warming up in the team tent off Valmont by the Dog Park entrance. There is a beer garden, expo, and this year even has a Jumbotron! If you can’t make it out to the race, it will be livestreamed by cyclingdirt.org.
Note: Although the Boulder Cup has been a C1 event in year’s past, I was informed that this year it is a C2, as there are no C1 events held on the same day as a World Cup.